Monument for the guest worker (2013) Hans van Bentem

Max Dereta
About the artwork

Since 2006, various parties involved, together with organizations in Rotterdam, have argued for a monument or work of art in which the share of guest labor in the reconstruction of Rotterdam is represented. Children of the 1e generation of guest workers asked CBK Rotterdam to enter into a partnership. The result was it Monument for the guest worker, a design by visual artist Hans van Bentem, that was festively unveiled on Sunday 10 November 2013 on Afrikaanderplein in the Feijenoord district. Van Bentem is an artist who likes to work with figurative symbols, often over the top, in which he merges all kinds of elements into a recognizable and appealing colorful result. His work is rich in visual language and visual culture, and in this Monument for the guest worker that preference came in handy. The monument is a combination of many symbols: an obelisk as a column of victory, eight colors of stone for the eight countries of origin of immigrants (Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Yugoslavia, Turkey, Tunisia and Morocco), terrazzo as North African material and executed by the son of an immigrant (Zuliani), an Eiffel tower as a reference to the large building to which the immigrants contributed in the reconstruction, ship's steel for the harbor, a sun as a Mediterranean symbol and a nod to the Turkish moon. The work is consciously striking, because only when people see it well does it convey its message: namely visibility for the history of the inhabitants of the Afrikaanderwijk (especially immigrants and their descendants). On the one hand it is Monument for the guest worker intended as a thank you for the contribution that guest workers in the Netherlands have made to the reconstruction after the Second World War. On the other hand, there is a strong desire among the initiators to close a period in history now, once and for all. "We want to make it clear to our children and grandchildren that they should not feel like a guest here, but that they are part of Dutch society - with all the rights and duties that go with it".

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About the artist

Hans van Bentem (The Hague, 1965) studied at the Royal Academy of Visual Arts The Hague in the direction of Monumental Design (1983-1988). In addition to ceramic sculptures, Van Bentem also makes paintings and objects made of glass. As a sculptor he mainly makes oversized sculptures for schools, shopping centers and squares. He is part of the artists' collective De Artoonisten.

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